Going for the Balanced Approach

Work-life balance is realized by some after years of effort, while the concept remains elusive to others. But what about recent college graduates?

Here is some guidance from Purdue University’s Ellen Ernst Kossek, the Basil S. Turner Professor of Management in the Krannert School of Management and research director at the Butler Center of Leadership Excellence.

Schedule fun (and healthy) ways to unwind: “Take time to reflect on ways you can unwind and identify your passions to continue as you enter the world of full-time work. Is it tennis, a book club, running, Comic-Con, gaming, lunch with friends, working out at the gym, walking in nature with a pet? Whatever makes you feel good and your heart sing, try to organize your calendar to block out time daily or weekly as you plan your work week. It is easy for work to creep in and take over your leisure time.”

Avoid long commutes: “Assess your commuting time as you search for apartments and pick one with a commute of 30 minutes or less that is close to safe public transportation. Living in the hot spot of night life may be fun, but if the commutes are long, you should consider living closer to work. You can always take a Lyft on the weekends and make your weekdays less hectic.”

Get plenty of sleep: “Regular sleep is very important to plan in your daily routine, and most of us need seven to eight hours at a minimum. During the work week, you should go to bed at a decent hour on a regular schedule. Being a night-owl and writing term papers may work in college, but it’s not a good idea for your health or well-being at work.”

Abstain from social media at work: “Learn your boundary management style and avoid checking personal communication at work. This helps you focus and get done early. I have found that many young people integrate their work and personal lives. While it’s fun to check Instagram during the day, you can lose concentration and mental flow. This can result in your having to stay later at work due to increased process losses from increased switching costs and greater transitions between your job and your personal life.”

Unplug at home: “Manage your smartphone wisely to unplug from work at night and on the weekends. It is easy to become addicted to work and engage in overwork as you are trying to build your career. Don’t get in the habit of checking work emails or texts on the weekends unless something is critically important. Let your boss and colleagues know how to reach you for important matters, but also let them know when you are offline, too, so you don’t become burnt out.” 

Job Hopping: When to Stop Moving

When I started a career in journalism after college, three jobs in the first five years seemed like a lot of moving around at the time. It pales to today’s generation as many are searching for that right opportunity and proper work-life balance.

But when do company representatives start to view too much mobility as a negative? Robert Half has some perspective, in an informal survey.

Leaving one job for a better one can be a smart career move, but too many employment changes in a short time span can give human resources (HR) managers cause for concern. In a Robert Half survey, HR managers interviewed said an average of five job changes in 10 years can prompt worries you’re a job hopper.

The survey was developed by Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm, and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on interviews with more than 300 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States.

“The job market has been unpredictable in recent years, and employers understand job candidates may have had short stints in some positions,” said Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director. “However, businesses look for people who will be committed to the organization, can contribute to the company, and help it reach its short- and long-term goals. Too much voluntary job hopping can be a red flag.”

Robert Half offers questions to consider when determining if you should stay at your current job or look for a new one:

  • Why do you want a new opportunity? Are you looking for greater challenge or more money? A shorter commute or more flexible hours? A better relationship with your manager? Be sure to keep the job factors that are most important to you at the forefront of your decision and pursue a new opportunity only if it helps address those issues.
  • Have you looked within? Don’t assume you need to leave your company to find the job you want. There may be other jobs with your current employer that are a better fit.
  • Where is the greatest long-term potential and stability? Is your best chance to build your skills and advance your career with your existing firm or another one? Which business is on the most solid footing? You don’t want to make a move only to learn your career progression is stalled, or your new company is struggling.

Women, Men Differ in Some Work Priorities

No shocker here: Salary and benefits remain critical elements for individuals choosing where to start or continue their careers. Beyond that, however, the factors that most attract job candidates vary based on gender.

Randstad, a global provider of human resources services, conducted a comprehensive 7,000-person survey. Below are a few of the key findings:

“How a company is perceived as an employer impacts what types of candidates it will attract,” said Lisa Crawford, senior vice president, Randstad U.S. “As our research reveals, companies may need to focus on key elements, such as building culture and adopting more flexible work policies, to appeal to different demographics. Attracting and retaining talent is not a one stop shop—particularly with a diverse workforce and multiple generations sitting side-by-side to one another.”

  • Women Want a Prime Location: Location is key for women workers, with 44% of female respondents choosing that as an important employer attribute compared to 35% of men.
  • Men Want Career Progression Opportunities in Financially Healthy Companies: When choosing to work for an employer, 42% of men look for opportunities to advance versus 36% of women. Additionally, the financial health of a company is very important to male respondents (36% of men versus 28% of women).
  • Work/life Balance Continues to Be a Top Concern for Women Workers: Nearly one-in-four (37%) women respondents chose workplace flexibility as an important employer attribute, compared to just 26% of men.

This Fantasy Not a Problem at Work

We’ve all heard about work-life balance. And while it’s important to maintain the "life" part of the equation in today’s 24-hour communications world, it’s also crucial while at the office to spend the vast majority of the time on the "work" function.

Thank goodness (reports Challenger, Gray & Christmas) fantasy football doesn’t appear to be upsetting that balance. Not exactly the top-of-mind business subject of the day, but remember that happy, contented employees are more productive employees. And fantasy players might have that more positive outlook — unless their star running back fumbled three times and never sniffed the end zone on Sunday afternoon.

According to Challenger:

In a survey of human resources professionals, the majority of respondents said fantasy football had little to no impact on productivity. Ranking the level of distraction on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being no noticeable impact, nearly 70 percent said four or lower. Less than eight percent of respondents said the level of distraction rated a 7 or 8 and none of the respondents felt the phenomenon deserved a 9 or 10.

The Challenger survey found that about one in five employers block access to sports and fantasy football websites. However, many simply look the other way with nearly half (46.2 percent) saying they do not care if employees spend part of their workday on fantasy football, as long as the quality and quantity of output does not decline. About 22 percent said they merely ask workers to limit fantasy football and other personal activities to lunch and other break times.

“It is difficult for companies to take a hard-line stance against fantasy football. The internet technology that helped fuel the rapid growth of fantasy football participation and makes it possible to manage teams from one’s desk also makes it possible for employees to attend to work duties during their personal time,” said John Challenger.